Not Just a 2 hour Movie About Russell Crowe and a Boat

I was surprised to see that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was on our syllabus. I had never seen it before and had heard it was a long movie in which you watched the ship sail along and waited for something to happen. After I viewed it, however, I certainly saw the connection to our discussion of Darwin’s voyage and his discoveries.

(Note: Did everyone catch the reference to a character named Jemmy in the beginning? I had to rewind to make sure I heard it correctly. It was mentioned briefly, but I don’t remember the character ever appearing.)

The relationship between Captain Jack and the naturalist, Dr. Maturin, seemed at first to suggest a divide between aggressive war and “peaceful” nature. In the end however, both men realized the strong similarities between the two. During the scene with the two weevils (…good pun, Jack!), Marurin chooses the greater weevil because he says it is stronger and more likely to survive. Jack jokes that one should always choose the “lesser of the two weevils.” This pun in fact foreshadows the outcome of the battle of the two ships. Bigger and stronger is not necessarily the most fit. The Surprise is the lesser of the two ships, smaller with fewer guns, but when Jack learns to use a disguise like the stick bug (phasmid), he becomes the fittest ship for the battle. In turn, we find out that the captain of the Acheron does his part to survive by using his own disguise.

The greatest battles in history are not the ones where the obviously stronger army dominates. That outcome is expected. We remember instead battles in which the seemingly weaker side is able to employ other options such as disguise, wit, and surroundings to confer a different advantage. Humans can figure out ways to use these options to survive because we have a choice. I’m relatively positive that stick bugs did not choose to look like sticks. They evolved because the ones that did not look like sticks got eaten!

This may be the connection to the genetic determinism we discuss in class. Maybe in the future we will be able to choose traits for our children, but how are we to know whether making them more attractive or smarter may not somehow prove to be a disadvantage in some way, like the “bigger and better” ship in Master and Commander. As I believe was said in class, the greatest choice may not be which proteins our genes make, but how we use what we naturally have.

This link *should* take you to a kodak gallery that one of the other passengers on our week long sail boat trip to and around the Galapagos Islands put up. =1&Uc=v4fzan.6gyef1gv&Uy=-caz2j6&Ux=1

Check it out, his animal pictures are amazing. He has images from every island we visited including the turtles, finches, underwater pictures of sea lions, etc. I (think I) attached two of my favorite pictures that I took during the trip to the blog.

-Nikki Majoras


~ by nmajoras on February 15, 2008.

2 Responses to “Not Just a 2 hour Movie About Russell Crowe and a Boat”

  1. Did you notice the date of the events at the beginning of the movie? It’s significant in relation to the voyage of the Beagle.

  2. It is interesting that you made the connection to a military strategy; I hardly thought of that. Why do you think Weir would facilitate this connection? I think the connection is hard to ignore, but I also think the redesign of the ship was a little different from actual “natural selection.” When Crowe disguises his ship, he uses another ship’s material; essentially learning from something else. To me, natural selection seems to be about improving one’s self totally individually. Perhaps if he had found some new way to set his sails to catch the wind this metaphor would have been more appropriate, but who knows? Just something to think about.

    Thanks for the pictures by the way, they are awesome!

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